Archive for the ‘Detroit’ Category

I recently learned that my friend Toni Moceri is running for Warren City Council in the upcoming primaries on August 7, 2007. She is one of 44 candidates, and I think she may be the youngest person running for election.

This caught my attention because some readers may be familiar with my previous posts reporting the brutal killing of Hmong teen Chonburi Xiong by Warren police. Warren is historically a white working class city, and the dramatic demographic change it’s been experiencing in the past 20 years requires new, fresh leadership like Moceri’s.

Moceri’s politics are good; she is a friend of Detroit Summer and supporter of efforts to seek justice for Chonburi Xiong. I suspect that Warren politics are run by an “old-boy’s network”, so I can only imagine how challenging it will be for a candidate like Moceri to penetrate into its power structure. Regardless, what I like most about Moceri as a candidate is that she is a young person who is returning to where she grew up to help foster positive change in her own community. Perhaps Moceri can pioneer to build a campaign, similar to the League of Young Voters model, to plant some seeds of young political leadership in the Detroit metro area.

How to get involved in Toni Moceri campaign: Continue Reading »

I was in Michigan last weekend for a short visit and a knee docter appointment (which I’m happy to report that I passed with flying colors!). Driving through the barren, calming roads of Detroit was a stark contrast to the fast-paced congestion of Manhattan. Most of all, it reminded me that there are many blog posts and reflections that are long overdue, particularly the one below, which I promised back in April.

During the process of applying to graduate school, I wrote a lot about how Detroit and how this city has been a generous teacher to me, helping me get on the track to pursue a degree in landscape architecture. I was too paranoid to post any text from my personal statements, for fear of jeopardizing my application, whether or not I had any real evidence to support this fear. Now that I’ve been admitted to school, I feel better about posting a blog-appropriate version of my personal statement.

In the spirit of BFP’s Radical Michigan Blogging Carnival, I submit my entry (4 months late!) about why Detroit/Michigan holds a special place in my heart. And for ways to get further acquainted with the cool things that make up the Detroit/Michigan area, check out the Allied Media Conference 2007 (June 22-24) and Critical Bloggers community. Continue Reading »

A recent statement released by the Committee to Support the Xiong Family to increase support for their organizing efforts surrounding the Chonburi Xiong incident:

Hmong Teen Killed by Police: Community Responses to Police Violence and Harassment in Warren and the Greater Detroit Area.

Since the fatal shooting of Hmong teenager, Chonburi Xiong, by Warren, Michigan police officers in September 2006, the “Committee to Support the Xiong Family,” an ad-hoc coalition of students, teachers, community members, and organizations, have joined efforts in not only seeking justice for the Xiong family and address issues of police violence against communities of color.

On the morning of September 17th, Chonburi Xiong, 18, was shot twenty seven times by Warren police officers in his own home. The Warren police officers responded to a domestic call by the Xiong family the day before, sparked by an argument between Chonburi and his parents leading to Chonburi firing his gun several times in his home and taking off with the family car. Chonburi came home that night and went to sleep. Without having called the police, the Xiong family awoke the next morning to the Warren policy who stormed their home without a warrant, detained the family upstairs and went down to the basement where Chonburi was sleeping. He was shot 27 times and the family was taken into custody where they were not notified of their Chonburi’s death until later that afternoon.

The Warren police state that the killing is “justified”; the city’s lawyer claims, “The twenty seven means nothing. The only thing the officers needed was justification to shoot one time. The twenty seven bullets don’t matter.”

This incident, however, is no anomaly; it is related to other forms of racially targeted police harassment and violence experienced by Asian American youth and other youth of color in the greater Detroit area. On November 26th, an off-duty office outside a retail store in Detroit fatally shot an unarmed sixteen-year-old African American youth, Brandon Martell Moore. Both families have not received an explanation or procedures from which to address their son’s death. Continue Reading »

I was very saddened to hear the news that Rob Cedar passed on Monday, March 4, 2007. I briefly worked with Rob during the last stages of the campaign to shut down the Hamtramck medical waste incinerator in 2005. Rob was a very kind, gentle person, and a dedicated environmental justice advocate. He helped organize the Hamtramck Environmental Action Team (HEAT) and served on city council. Like many unnamed local community activists, Rob’s work is what maintains and strengthens the integrity of our communities. May he rest in peace.

Rob at a demonstration to shut the Hamtramck medical waste incinerator. Photo by ACCESS.

UPDATE: Information about Rob’s memorial service. Continue Reading »

Today I pack up my belongings into my car to complete my move to New York City/Brooklyn. While living in Detroit, I remember lamenting over the handful of folks who decide to leave the city each year, for whatever reason. It is not my intention to be that person who couldn’t see the beauty of what is taking place in the city.

Rather, I’m on a pursuit to become a landscape architect/designer and trying figure out how to pull together my background as a community organizer into this new path. In putting a lot of my writing energies into composing a reflective and honest personal statement for grad school applications, I realized that much of what I wrote was about Detroit and its people that impacted my life.

Sharing the text of my personal statement seemed like the perfect way to give tribute to Detroit and to the residents who are continuing to lay the seeds of social change. I will post my Love Letter to Detroit as soon as I hear back from schools, so regrettably, I must ask you to check back in April for the tribute. 😉

Before going to see the newly opened MOCAD, my friend and I spontaneously decided to enter and explore the Michigan Central Depot. It was surprisingly easy to get in from the tunnels. We were walking in darkness for a minute, before suddenly stepping into the expansive main lobby/waiting area (represented in the photo above courtesy of Forgotten Detroit). A snow storm had come through the city two days ago, so mounds of snow sculpted by the wind were all over the floor and staircases. We only had time to look around the third (some kind of vault/archival room) and fifth (hotel rooms or offices) floors. I still can’t really believe I was inside the building — had there been more time and had I dressed warmer, I could have spent much longer inside, just sitting, soaking and reflecting.

I hope the fate of this building, like other wonderful buildings in Detroit, will not go down the path of demolition. Afterwards, my friend and I had an interesting conversation about sustainability and urban cities. Inside the rooms, we had found many light fixtures and other materials wasted and deteriorating, as though people just left everything behind and didn’t think look back. At the same time, the architecture and building materials used to construct the station seem solid and strong enough to withstand time itself. Aside from the aesthetics, there doesn’t appear to be much structural damage. I don’t think the box-like buildings we find our Wal-marts and Targets today can measure up to the Michigan Central Depot. With the right amount investment, imagine the possibilities of how we can reuse this building.

Not much time to develop this entry, but I wanted to share an update regarding the Xiong memorial. This week’s MetroTimes published a well-balanced article on last Saturday’s Memorial and Community Assembly for Chonburi Xiong. As a side note, I wasn’t at all keen on the title, “Hmong and Restless”, that they used for the cover. “Hmong and Restless”, a play on the TV soap opera “Young and Restless”, is an inconsiderate way to refer to the 27-shot killing of an Asian teenager and the community’s outcry. If the article were about the counter-culture of youth, that would be a different a different case..

Back to the news article. There is a very eye-opening quote from the lawyer representing the city and police officers who shot Xiong:

One thing was certain: This guy pointed a loaded weapon at these police officers. The 27 times means nothing. The only thing the officers needed was the justification to shoot one time. The 27 bullets don’t matter.

It was reported that nearly 40 shots were fired and 27 hit the young man. I’m not convinced that the police needed to shoot at all, but to say that 1 bullet is the same as 27 bullets is appalling. One could shoot an animal less times than that. I am not an expert on police procedures, but I do believe that there are steps of de-escalation that police can take to disarm a potential suspect. On the note of suspect, I don’t think that the police have stated what the charge was against Xiong. Was there even a warrant to enter the house?

Here is the latest regarding the death of a Hmong youth by police in Warren, Michigan. A memorial and community assembly event is planned for Chonburi Xiong, young victim of a brutal police shooting. The ad-hoc committee that has been organizing support for the Xiong family also sent a press release that generated a lot of media attention in local papers, including two hits in the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and the Macomb Daily. Below is a powerful statement from the father of Chonburi, from Detroit Asian Youth Project‘s website:

My name is Pang Blia Xiong. I was born in a small farming village in Laos on December 31, 1956. I did not have much of a childhood because my country was torn apart by war. When the Americans came to Laos, they asked our people, the Hmong, to help fight the Communists. I did not know much about America, but my parents told us it was our duty to help the Americans. My father was a Hmong military leader who was killed in combat in 1969. That same year, I joined the army at the age of thirteen. Although I feared for my life at every moment during the war, I managed to survive.

But after the Communists took power in 1975, everybody who sided with the Americans became an outcast in Laos. My family fled to the woods to survive. For four years, we were constantly running to avoid the gunfire from Communist soldiers. Sometimes, we went for days without food. Many people from my village died—men, women, children, and elders. My family was lucky to escape many close encounters.

In 1979, my family made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. I lived in the Ban Vinai camp for nine years. Housing conditions were poor and crowded, and we were only given small food rations once or twice a month. I met my wife in the refugee camp. We decided to come to America, when my wife was pregnant in 1988. My older brother had already settled in Wisconsin. He told me that I should leave the refugee camp because America was a better place to raise a family. Our first son, Chonburi, was born in Thailand as we were preparing to come to the US. My wife and I were overjoyed to become parents. In our culture, the first-born son is especially important because he will be the one to carry on our family name and heritage. We have four more children born in America.

We came to Detroit in 1990, and I worked as a machine operator for an auto parts supplier. For the past eight years, I have worked as an assembly worker making auto parts for automotive engines. My wife worked as a dishwasher first, then as a machine operator. It was hard adjusting to a new country where people spoke a different language, but we both worked hard and did our best to support our family. We saved our money to buy a house in northeast Detroit, and I was proud to become an American citizen in 1998.

In October 2003, we moved to a larger house in Warren. We did not know much about the city, but we liked the houses and we heard that our children could get a good education in the Warren public schools. For nearly three years, we always considered our neighborhood safe, and we trusted the Warren police. We know there are many good men and women on the force and that they have a difficult and important job. But we never imagined that our son, Chonburi, could be killed by police officers in our own home.

We want the public to be aware that previous reports have contained many inaccurate statements about my family. We hope that the media will investigate this matter further and provide a more even-handed account.

I ask everyone who is a parent, “If you lost your child in this manner, wouldn’t you be searching for answers? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to see if your child’s death could have been avoided?” My wife and I have filed our complaint because we want the court and the public to take a closer look at the facts of this case.

In closing, we wish to thank all the members of the community, who have helped us to make it through this difficult period. We appreciate your support. We hope that we can all work together and that we can all work with the police and government authorities to ensure that all people are treated fairly. We deeply miss our son, and we do not wish to see any other parents suffer as we have.

Continue Reading »

As of late, the media has been covering several incidents of violence against people of color at the hands of the police. For those in the Michigan area, the story of Chonburi Xiong, who was shot 27 times by Warren police, is still under the radar among many people in the community, in addtion to the increase of violence toward Hmong folks in the Midwest area.

An ad-hoc committee has formed to support the Xiong family and raise more attention to police brutality and racial discrimination. If you are in the Michigan area, please attend this memorial event to support the Xiong family and demand justice. For those outside Michigan, feel free to share the information to your networks and illuminate how Xiong’s death is one among a pattern of violence against people of color.

Memorial and Community Assembly
for Chonburi Xiong and questions of police brutality and racial discrimination…

• Remembering Chonburi Xiong
• Youth poetry and music performances
• Know your rights! Information about what to do if the police come to your door, etc.

For more information: warrenincident (at) yahoo (dot) com or (313) 923-0797.

FEBRUARY 3, 2007
12:00-2:00pm
@ Our Lady of Good Counsel
17142 Rowe Ave, Detroit
Donations are welcome.

Continue Reading »

Welcome to two new bloggers from Deeee-troit! Greater Detroit and Rachel P are talented writers bringing important perspectives about organizing efforts and community issues relating to Detroit.

T. Zac, omnicrisis, and upsidedown house are also frequent bloggers from Detroit, and while MarciaVitae‘s blog is mostly about her current travels in Taiwan, we’ll still claim her.

I’m sure there are more Detroit Bloggers out there. I would love to visit your page, so please share them in the comment section below!